"It is my dream to build a park that I one day visit with my White House staff on my birthday. And they say, 'President Knope, this park is awesome. Now we understand why you’re the first female president of the United States.' "
Leslie is the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee, Indiana. An inversion of the Obstructive Bureaucrat trope, Leslie is a cheerful bureaucrat full of can-do spirit. This makes her The Pollyanna on a show where almost everyone else is cynical and jaded to one degree or another. She is also a Determinator.
Ambition Is Evil: Averted! Leslie is extremely ambitious (just read the above quote), but she is also very moral. In some episodes, she is presented with an immoral way to achieve one of her goals and considers using it, but ultimately she ends up feeling guilty and doesn't go through with it.
Badass: She has her moments, never forget that she's a capable hunter.
Bad Liar: Honest to a fault, Leslie's rare attempts at subterfuge invariably fall flat. In many cases, she ends up ratting herself out.
This becomes especially apparent in "Christmas Scandal", where it's shown that her duties are so numerous that the combined efforts of all six of her coworkers can't get the job done.
Her overextension is given attention again in "Sweet Sixteen", where Ron states that she's been pulling 100 hours a week trying to give equal attention to her job and her city council campaign. Throughout the episode she keeps making minor blunders due to neglecting something from either side of her professional life. At the end of the episode she decides to reduce her time at work to 10 hours a week.
Big Eater: when it comes to waffles, whipped cream, sugar, or all of the above, Leslie's essentially a bottomless pit.
Leslie: It's every girl's dream to [something incredibly wonky, obscure and/or overspecific].
Leslie: Ann, you [insert strangely condescending comment that compliments her beauty but points out her naivete]
Character Development: Leslie had some Michael Scott-ish aspects to her personality in Season 1, but in Season 2 the character became much less obnoxious, and more of a hyper-competent, upbeat Pollyanna.
Determinator: Best exemplified by her masterful oration of her speech intended to attract sponsors to Harvest Festival. All while she was near delirious with the flu, and quickly reverted to sickness-induced delirium during a short Q&A session.
This is Leslie's great weakness as well as her strength. In many episodes the conflict can be summarized as "Leslie's friends have to convince her that she can't change a situation she considers unacceptable." Of course, she is so hypercompetent that she frequently finds ways to improve the situation anyway.
Summarized nicely in "The Smallest Park" when Ann interrupts Leslie's complaints about how unfair it is to call her a steamroller:
Ann:You're a steamroller! You're a massive, enormous, runaway steamroller with no brakes and a cement brick on the gas pedal!
Distaff Counterpart: Back in the first season, critics tended to dismiss Leslie as "Michael Scott in a skirt", but it's generally agreed that she became more her own character after the series Grew the Beard, as unlike Michael Scott, she is not only good at her job, but totally deserved to have been promoted into it.
Expository Hairstyle Change: Wears a small, very tight French braid in her hair curving around the top of her head in "Jerry's Painting", apparently because she takes very well to being compared to a Greek goddess.
She's also a huge fangirl of Joe Biden and most prominent American women in politics, to the point of covering the walls of her office with their pictures. She's also a type of geek rarely portrayed in the media, the government policy wonk.
Glurge Addict: Mildly. She really likes cute things, but not to an annoying degree.
Leslie: Scientifically hummingbirds are the world’s cutest animals. I mean, they're so small, they have tiny beaks and they only eat sugar water. I mean what beats that? Come on. Baby monkeys in diapers? Yeah... they do. Baby monkeys in diapers are the cutest.
Immigrant Patriotism: During her campaign, Leslie is stunned to learn that she was actually born in Eagleton, not Pawnee, partly because she hates Eagleton and partly because most of the voters hate Eagleton. But as she thinks about it further she realizes that it's the choice to continue living in and trying to improve Pawnee that really matters, and manages to communicate that to the voters.
Nice Girl: Despite her faults, Leslie is overall a very kindhearted person who constantly does nice things for her friends and goes out of her way to help others. Ron puts it best when he says, "Leslie has a lot of qualities I find horrifying, but the worst one by far is how thoughtful she can be".
Number Two: Officially, she is this to Ron, but she actually does all the work.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Leslie is a competent golfer and hunter, and she almost always dresses in a masculine manner, but considering that appearing to be "too feminine" is a concern for women in the real world for business and politics, this is very much a Justified Trope.
Small Name, Big Ego: Kind of. She's not full of herself, but she's convinced that her small government job is much more important than it really is. She also has no doubt that she will one day be president of the United States.
Increasingly looks like this will be averted completely, as her work is getting her more attention - at least from local Pawnee politicians.
Trademark Favorite Food: She piles whipped cream onto everything. She also loves Belgian waffles, specifically the ones from JJ's Diner.
Weirdness Magnet: Somewhat. She's seldom had a "normal" date—something extremely outlandish happens, or the date himself is outlandish. Incidents include a blazing dress, an Ambien overdose, a date sticking his hand in her mouth as she slept, and a free MRI. As far as we've seen, Dave and Ben are the only men she's dated without some kind of off-putting quirk or glaring character flaw.
A slightly off-putting quirk of Dave's came out when he briefly returns to Pawnee and confesses his love to Leslie, and then handcuffs Ben to a urinal.
White Guilt: Shows occasional signs of this, especially when dealing with Ken Hotate, the local Native American leader, who likes to cheerfully invoke Everything Is Racist to provoke this reaction and get his way. She largely outgrows it in later interactions with him.
Workaholic: Hell, in "Citizen Knope" she attempts to steal some work from the office to do at home during her paid suspension.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)
"The Parks Department has done so much for me, that if I can help them out in any way I will. Oh god. Maybe I should just give them all free flu shots."
Leslie's Heterosexual Life Partner. They first meet in the pilot episode, when Ann attended a town hall meeting to bring an abandoned construction pit to the government's attention. For the first three seasons, Ann was a nurse at the local hospital, making it somewhat baffling that she seemed to spend so much time with the other characters at City Hall. Eventually, she was given a part-time job at City Hall to solve this problem. She is generally a Straight Woman.
Ambiguously Brown: Obviously applies to any character played by Rashida Jones, who is black and Jewish.
Leslie: I’ve said this to you before and I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re thoughtful and you’re brilliant. And your ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot.
Big Eater: she apparently once consumed an entire cheesecake at Leslie's request, commenting only that it was delicious and that she would haven eaten ten cheesecakes if asked.
Cannot Tell a Joke: She notably fails when she attempts to be funny, often saying an awkward joke and then immediately regretting it and kicking herself under her breath.
Florence Nightingale Effect: Ann is clearly shown to be attracted to vulnerable and sickly men. She waited on Andy hand and foot when his legs broke, and tries to coddle and protect him like a child, and kisses him when he ends up in the hospital again. She was also incredibly threatened and uncomfortable by Chris being almost completely perfect, until he got a nasty case of the flu, which made her ecstatic.
One-Hour Work Week: Ann's nursing job. The show is a Work Com, it's just not dedicated to her work. Occasionally we see her at her work, usually whenever a main character ends up in the hospital. Ann getting a part time job at the city's health department as of the end of Season 3 is most likely an attempt to avert this trope.
Of course since this is a Mockumentary, We can assume it is all done offscreen and has been edited out.
Really Gets Around: She finally learns how to put her looks to good use in season three, and is shown with at least one new paramour every episode of that season.
Shipper on Deck: Ann really, really wants Leslie and Ben to get together (and even sneaks an Al Green song onto their road trip mix, which is designed to be as un-sexy as possible.).
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: A mild case. Being so beautiful, she's never been dumped before. When Chris breaks up with her, his positive personality and strange wording plus her inexperience make her not realize it until a week later and she is blindsided by it. As Leslie put it in an earlier episode:
Leslie: Ann, I always forget you're so pretty you're not used to rejection!
What Does She See in Him?: Ann goes through as many lame, unattractive boyfriends as attractive ones in season three. Leslie has to call her out on it in "The Fight" when her current guy happens to be the Douche.
"I had to call in a few favors, but if you don't call in favors to look at women in bikinis and assign them numerical grades, what the hell do you call in favors for?"
Tom is Leslie's immediate subordinate, in charge of scheduling parks activities and an aspiring media mogul. Networking, hot women, expensive suits, hot women, slacking off, and hot women are just a few of his favorite things.
Always Second Best: He has a sort of inferiority complex for Ron, which came to a boiling point in the third season premiere.
Oddly, in what may be an Out-of-Character Moment, he isn't shown to be terribly intoxicated by his invention Snakejuice, which has terrible after-effects for the rest of the cast (especially Ron). Though he still ends up drunk.
Hypocritical Humor: Despite his obsession with being trendy and stylish, he is repeatedly shown to be woefully out of touch with what is actually trendy and stylish.
It's All About Me: Has a big, big problem with this. It's on full display in "Meet 'N' Greet", where he turns an event for Leslie to get to know local business owners into a investment pitch for his company Entertainment 720. While he did it because E720 was bankrupt and he was desperate for funds, it also wasn't particularly out of character.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As Leslie puts it, "Tom Haverford is a selfish, sleazy, self-promoting, good-hearted, secretly kind and wonderful tiny, little person."
Man Child: Seems to have the mentality of a fifteen-year old boy.
Mock Millionaire: Comes up often but particularly emphasized during the Entertainment 720 arc, when he and Jean-Ralphio carelessly spent money on buying excessive props and hiring attractive women as surplus employees while not doing any actual work or generating revenue for their company.
Odd Friendship: Andy and Ben are both about as far from him personality-wise as possible, each for very different reasons, but he hangs out with both of them a lot. A later episode even shows that he considers them more of his true friends than the almost identical John Ralphio.
Pet the Dog: After Leslie tears up the Venezuelans' check in "Sister City", Tom secretly takes all the tips he earned making himself the Venezuelans' errand-boy and donates it all toward the park fund.
Pretty Fly For An Indian Guy: At one point, Tom mentions having carefully cultivating a Jay-Z vibe and once dressed up as the rapper T-Pain for Halloween. He's also fond of using the slang term "boo" to refer to a significant other.
Popularity Polynomial: In-Universe: Finds himself the victim of this compared to Ben in the episode Prom. His taste in music is out of touch with high school students.
Took a Level in Badass/Took a Level in Kindness: After his failure with Entertainment 720, he successfully manages to run a small suit-rental business before being bought out by a competitor. He now works in City Government to help bring outside businesses to Pawnee, impressing Ron and Leslie. He's also noticeably less selfish.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)
"My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke. The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test, and maybe also a physical tournament, like a decathlon. And women are brought to him, maybe... when he desires them."
Leslie's manly, mustachioed, unapologetically libertarian boss who, engaged in a continuous attempt to sabotage the Pawnee government, secretly (or not-so-secretly) tries to stop anything from getting done. Leslie basically does his job for him, allowing him to devote his time to being a Memetic Badass.
Acquired Poison Immunity: His family have their own brand of moonshine that can only be legally used to strip varnish off of speedboats. This has to be the only reason why he can knock back so much alcohol yet never get hungover. (Tom's Snakejuice got him drunk, but he suffered no ill effects the morning after.)
Annoying Laugh: Despite his unabashed masculinity, he titters like a schoolgirl on the few occasions where he does laugh.
Badass: One of the central aspects of his character is how incredibly badass he is. To put into perspective just how insane he is, every onscreen fight he's been involved in has ended in a single punch.
Big Eater: Especially in regards to red meat and breakfast meals, and all other foodstuffs are treated with suspicion, or outright derision. The only thing that interests him in a strip club is the breakfast buffet. He says that if he does not have at least three breakfast meals a day, he acts like a tired whiny child. He has an enormous picture of bacon and eggs framed in his office.
Ron: Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have... Wait, wait. I worry what you just heard was, "Give me a lot of bacon and eggs." What I said was, "Give me all the bacon and eggs you have." Do you understand?
He can eat a party platter designed to feed 12 people in four minutes.
Birthday Hater: He hates birthdays so much that he has gone to great lengths to keep anyone from finding out, including having it redacted from all government documents.
"I don't like loud noises. And people making a fuss. And I especially don't like people celebrating because they know a piece of private information about me. Plus the whole thing is a scam - birthdays were invented by Hallmark to sell cards."
Breakout Character: So much. He's by far the most popular character among fans, and some TV critics have called him the best sitcom character since Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld.
The Cast Showoff: Nick Offerman actually is a woodworker. He also plays saxophone.
Manly Tears: He's only ever cried twice. The first time was when a bus ran into him as a child. The second time was when he first caught word of Li'l Sebastian's death. He very nearly cries a third time in "Citizen Knope" in reaction to Leslie's Christmas gift—remote-controlled closing doors for his office.
Non-Idle Rich: Ron owns large amounts of gold, to the point where the 5% he is going to leave to each of his kids is considered a lot of money. He's an odd example: he does nothing at work, but builds as much of his possessions as he can.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: He acts as one on purpose in a (thanks to Leslie's hypercompetence) questionably effective attempt to make the government as useless as possible.
Perpetual Frowner: Even when he's being nice, he's stern. The only thing that makes him smile is the collapse of the Pawnee government.
Professional Slacker: He basically lets Leslie run the department, which she is only too happy to do. Ron, as a fierce super-libertarian, is actually ideologically opposed to the government accomplishing things; the one time he is seen actually working with enthusiasm is when the city needs ideas on how to slash its budget.
Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: As indicated by the above quote, Ron's political philosophy falls quite far on the libertarian side. He has explicitly referred to himself as a libertarian a number of times and sees no value in government-run institutions to the point of wanting everything privatized. Unfortunately for him, Leslie always has ambitious plans to expand the Parks Department. Hilarity Ensues.
"No, I didn't win, but at least I didn't make any new friendships."
April is The Snark Knight. Originally, she was an apathetic college intern who constantly slacked off and seemed like she would rather be anywhere else. In the second season, she was hired as Ron's assistant specifically to stonewall anyone wishing to meet with him. Near the end of the fourth season, it's revealed that, while she generally hates people, April loves animals and realizes that this might be her calling. In season five, the incompetent Animal Control Department is absorbed by the Parks Department and April is appointed director of the new sub-department.
Ambiguously Bi: She expresses interest in going to a strip club, and thinks the topless painting of Leslie is hot.
Aside Glance: Due to the format, all the characters do it from time to time, but the aside glance appears to be April's primary form of communication.
Beta Couple: With Andy after they become a couple. She is the youngest, most cynical, and apathetic of the women and is ironically the first of them to get married.
Be Yourself: In season five she gets put into the public spotlight more and more as a representative for the parks department. At first she imitates Leslie as a way to get through her presentations, since Leslie has always been successful at that sort of thing and it helps her deal with her nerves, but April realizes that Leslie's methods don't work for her and simply starts acting like herself. While this gets complaints for excessive rudeness, she is much more successful than she ever was imitating Leslie.
Character Development: Her character arc starts in earnest in season four and continues into season five as she realizes that she can't be a complete jerk to everyone and attempts to actually make a career.
Large Ham: Whenever she acts in-show, like when she pretended to be a rich, vampish widow at a bar.
Woman Child: Among other examples, she buys toys instead of household items at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The Match Maker: Much to her own dismay, she finds herself helping couples get together. April is the one who pairs up Tom and Ann, much to her regret as they annoy her later with their relationship problems. She also tries to set up Chris, still sad from breaking up with Jerry's daughter, with Andy's female studies professor. She ends up sleeping with Ron instead.
Morality Pet: Andy in a way has helped in her gradual defrosting. Notably her time with him leads her to reject her two gay boyfriends due to being annoyed by how artificial their hipster ways were.
Odd Friendship: She is quite close with Leslie despite them having completely opposite personalites. Her initial friendship with Andy in season 2 could also count, however after they get married they become more The Odd Couple.
Literally in season three. Andy and April adopt a three-legged dog named Champion. She adores him, states he's one of the few things she cares about, and eventually admits that helping homeless animals get adopted is one of the few things that could get her passionate about a boring, administrative job.
Secret Secret Keeper: Reveals to Ron that she's aware of his double life as Duke Silver, as her mom has all of his albums & she recognised him the first moment they met.
Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Similar to Ann's One-Hour Work Week. April is a college student, but this isn't mentioned very often and she never seems to have to be in class, which would seem to indicate that whatever college she's attending is close enough for her to be at the office so often during the day.
In The manualPawnee: The Greatest Town In America, April says she only takes one course a semester at Pawnee Community College.
April: I passed up a gay Halloween party to be here. Do you know how much fun gay Halloween parties are? Last year I saw three Jonas Brothers make out with three Robert Pattinsons. It was amazing.
Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)
"I just wrote a new song, okay? Bottom line, it's called 'Sex Hair'. It's about how you can tell when someone just had sex 'cause of how their hair gets matted up in the back. It's awesome."
Andy was introduced as Ann's idiotic musician boyfriend in the first season and originally intended as a temporary character. He was kept on in the second season after Ann broke up with him and landed a job as a shoe-shiner at City Hall. He had a Will They or Won't They? relationship with April in the second season. In the third season, he and April married after having dated for less than a month, much to Leslie's horror. Since then, their marriage has proved surprisingly stable. At the start of season four, Andy leaves his shoe-shiner job and joins the Parks Department.
Adorkable: Despite being a stereotypical jock, Andy shows elements of this from time to time, especially when he morphs into his alter-ego "Burt Macklin of the F.B.I." whenever a situation requires the presence of law enforcement. He also likes to re-enact scenes from action movies and it is discovered in one episode that he made a bucket list of all of the things he would like to do once in his life before he dies.
Author Catchphrase: He mentions that he uses the lines "spread your wings and fly" and "you deserve to be a champion" in all of his songs. The first lyric at least can actually be heard in the studio versions of most of his songs.
Character Development: Andy morphed from something of a jerk in Season 1 to a lovable doofus in Season 2.
Cloudcuckoolander: Mostly in Season 4 and after, comes with being The Ditz. It's not normal for someone to dedicate a whole episode's investigation just to find who threw the pie at Jerry in Bus Tour. That's just one of many examples.
April: I'll go too. Tom: Really? 'Cause an hour ago you told me you'd rather watch a sex tape of your grandparents. April: Shut up! I don't have anything else to do. Do you want help or not? Tom: All right, see you guys later. [leaves] Andy: I think that it's really, really sweet that your grandparents still make love.
In another episode, Andy and Tom are escorted to the archiving room by an extremely old woman. As soon as she leaves, Tom jokingly tells Andy to remind him to ask her where she was when Lincoln got shot. Andy makes sure to write it down.
Early-Installment Weirdness: His entire character becomes pretty much entirely different after season 1, where he goes from a Jerkass who is conning Ann to a lovable idiot who is pretty much among the nicest characters on the show.
Fake Guest Star: In the first season, Chris Pratt was credited as a guest star despite appearing in every episode. They did shuffle back and forth on putting him in the opening titles during the first season, but nevertheless he was consistently referred to as a guest star. From the second season onwards, he was credited as a normal regular.
Feigning Intelligence: Andy has tried to sound smart on several occasions, and failed spectacularly every time.
Nice Guy: While his stupidity can still lead to awkward situations at times, Andy overall becomes a very likeable and well-meaning person after his Character Development, and is generally friendly to everyone except Jerry and Kyle.
Literal-Minded: Leslie commissions him to write a song for Li'l Sebastian's funeral that's "5000 times better than 'Candle in the Wind' ". Andy writes a song titled "5000 Candles in the Wind".
Shipper on Deck: In season five Andy tries to set up Ron and a local woman named Diane.
Stalker with a Crush: In the first part of season two, Andy lives in a ravine near Ann's house to "protect" her.
Took a Level in Kindness: His evolution into a more likable person during the second season. There was some of this in the first season too, particularly in one episode where he goes out of the way to clean the house (and himself!) as a surprise for Ann while impaired by his cast.
"Well, you have to be able to make decisions like this, Leslie. You have to be harsh, you know. No one's going to elect you to do anything if you don't show that you're a responsible grown-up."
A state auditor who comes to Pawnee with Chris to evaluate the town's funds at the end of the second season. Promoted to series regular in the third season. He is blunt and cynical, but has a Freudian Excuse.
Adorkable: Makes occasional references to sci-fi movies and corrects Tom when he gets them wrong.
Ben: They would never cancel Game of Thrones. It's a crossover hit! It's not just for fantasy enthusiasts. They're telling human stories in a fantasy world. Fill out the forms, please.
Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Served this role in his initial appearance, wherein his cynicism and designation by Chris as the Bearer of Bad News made Leslie seem him as the "bad guy". This very quickly changes though.
Berserk Button: Any mention of him as a mayor when he was 18 years old is bound to set him off.
Bishounen: Leslie starts thinking of Ben as this after they start dating:
"I should listen to you always, because you are a man genius with a taut, narrow frame like a sexy elf king!"
Bi the Way: When going off on a talk show host, he can be heard saying, "Everyone has gay thoughts!" Although he may not completely fulfill the trope, since said talk show host was heckling and flustering him into saying several embarrassing things.
Improbable Age: Was mayor of a town at 18. A caller to the Ira and the Douche radio show lampshades this in the most offensively unintelligent way possible:
Caller: Seems like 18 is pretty young for a mayor. What were you, like, 12?
In-Series Nickname: Ben accumulates a lot of these in his short time in the series ("Mean Ben", "Turd Boy", "Human Disaster", "Calzone Boy", "Nerd", etc). In fandom, "Human Disaster" especially has grown to almost meme-ish proportions.
I Resemble That Remark: A Running Gag with Tom is Tom will make some kind of geek insult about Ben, with Ben to respond indignantly at being called a geek with an even geekier answer. For example, Tom insulting that Ben wants to take a hobbit tour of New Zealand, and Ben responding that he did not care for Peter Jackson's adaptation.
Old Shame: In-Universe: Bankrupting his hometown during his stint as teen mayor when he built an expensive winter sports center. When it's brought up by Ira and the Douche in "Media Blitz", it absolutely ruins his composure.
One Steve Limit: Is an aversion. Ben was previously the name of one of April's boyfriend's boyfriend.
In later episodes, they're actually shown to have incredibly similar qualities as well, and the ship tease has been dialed up to all-out UST.
Persona Non Grata: "Partridge" shows that his eponymous hometown still holds an intense grudge over Ice Town. His sister runs as soon as a crowd points her out as a relative, and Leslie and Ben even get chased out of a local park when Ben is recognized by a ranger.
Straight Man: He is easily one of the most sensible characters on the show.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: He kind of replaces Mark. He doesn't have the same job, but he acts as a foil/possible love interest to Leslie in a similar way.
By the end of the third season, however, Ben is definitely his own character. Also, according to creator Michael Schur, even though Ben was brought in with the idea that he might be a love interest/foil for Leslie, he was hesitant to label Ben that, reasoning that they hadn't shot a single scene with the two of them yet, and implying that, like Andy/April, there needed to be chemistry for it to work.
He's undeniably replaced Mark as the show's "straight man" though.
Trademark Favorite Food: Calzones, which earns him no end of derision from everyone he knows. Although he may abandon his beloved calzones after he a devastating case of food poisoning in "Ann's Decision".
The Woobie: Becomes this in-universe(and to some viewers) when Donna takes him on her and Tom's annual "Treat Yo'self Day" after seeing him outside at lunch:
Donna: Oh lord. Is he eating soup on a bench? Alone?
His Woobieness increases later that day when he buys himself a Batman costume to wear as his version of treating himself and begins to weep, his sadness over the breakup of his secret relationship with Leslie finally coming out.
Donna: Uh oh. Batman's crying.
Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe)
"I take care of my body above all else; diet, exercise, supplements, positive thinking. Scientists believe that the first human being who will live a hundred and fifty years has already been born. I believe I am that human being."
Ben's partner, opposite and Heterosexual Life Partner. He is cheerful and optimistic, but, in an effort to be liked, he always forces Ben to be the messenger for any bad news. Chris is also a health nut. In season 3 the mayor of Pawnee asks him to fill in for the city manager who's recovering from a heart attack.
Broken Ace: He's a hypochondriac, and is shown to be unable to cope with the idea of being unhappy and his ultra-positivity often makes him unintentionally a jerk to others (i.e. his behavior toward Ann and Jerry, as well as designating Ben the Bearer of Bad News).
Ambiguously Bi: Maybe a bit much, but it's been repeatedly shown that he's flattered rather than uncomfortable by male attention.
Breakout Character: He was originally only intended to appear in the last two episodes of season 2 and the first six episodes of season 3. However, after the positive critical reception of the character, Rob Lowe signed a multi-year contract and became a main cast member for several seasons.
Catch Phrase: One of his strategies for making Ben seem like the bad guy instead of him involves variations of this:
[character complains about X] Chris: Well, that's terrible! Is there anything we can do about that, Ben? Ben: Uh, no. Chris: Damn! [hastily leaves the scene]
Ron: Hello, gents! Ron Swanson. (reaches for a handshake) Chris:(point) Ron... Swanson. (beat) Ron: Okay.
Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Revealed to be this in "Dave Returns". He doesn't know the words for "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" either.
Hypochondria: An extension of being born with a blood disease.
Lawful Stupid: Comes down with a case of this when he zealously prosecutes Leslie due to her romantic relationship with her superior, Ben, despite knowing that Ben would never give anyone any kickbacks and that Leslie would never ask for or take them. His apology after the end of the trial implies some inner turmoil over whether To Be Lawful or Good, at least.
The Matchmaker: He expresses a fondness for this in 'Jerry's Painting' and endeavors to set Ben up with someone. Played for irony considered his new rules are actually keeping Ben from the one person he's interested in.
Moment Killer: An indirect version in that his rules against relationships within the government are the only obstacle in Leslie and Ben's way, although he is unaware of this. There are straighter examples in "Road Trip" where (1) Ben confesses to Leslie at dinner; Leslie leaves for a moment to consult Ann and steels herself to go back and kiss Ben only to find that Chris has appeared and has seated himself at their table, and (2) Ben and Leslie get increasingly cute while watching TV together on the couch in Chris's hotel room and Chris keeps interrupting with his frequent bathroom trips.
Nice Guy: While his overly cheerful personality sometimes leads to unintentional Jerkass moments, Chris is overall a very well-meaning guy who implements a health initiative out of a genuine desire to improve the health of the citizens of Pawnee. He is also friendly and polite to almost everyone. An excellent example of his niceness occurs during Ben's bachelor party when he finds out none of the other guys got to have their own bachelor party for various reasons. His response? He gives everyone the perfect bachelor party they never got to have.
The Pollyanna: So positive, he scares off Oren, the creepy and morbid Goth at April and Andy's wedding.
When he was born with a deadly, rare blood disease, the doctors told his parents he would only live for a few months. That's why he is so positive!
Principles Zealot: He will not budge or bend the rules, even if he would personally like to. He hates the fact that he has to investigate Ben and Leslie's relationship and genuinely wants them to get off scot-free, but he refuses to half-ass the investigation and do it to the best of his ability.
In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", he's so anxious and depressed about Leslie's trial that he loads up on herbal remedies to the point of, as Leslie puts it, "radiating happiness".
Later episodes show that he actually has crippling issues about his mortality that he barely manages to cover up. It's really the only reason he's such a health nut. He begins spiraling into depression when his unrequited feelings for Ann make him wonder if he'll just end up alone.
Straw Vegetarian: While he does eat meat, his health nut tendencies are usually focused on getting away from red meat and he's treated the same as a Straw Vegetarian. On multiple occasions he's shown thinking the various plants are reasonable alternatives to meat. Most telling is when he wanted to remove hamburgers from the commissary. He bet Ron he could make a turkey burger better than a hamburger. When they had the cook off, Chris slaved over his burgers with the finest ingredients. Ron slapped ground beef on a grill. Ron won in a landslide because beef is just better. Even Chris was 100% convinced.
"Well, you know it's like I always say, 'It ain't government work if you don't have to do it twice.' "
A middle-aged Butt Monkey who has worked in the Parks Department since the 1970s. He's picked on by everyone, particularly "mean" characters like Tom and April, but also by "nice" characters like Leslie. He is regarded as a boring, out-of-touch loser, but actually seems to have his personal life squared away better than anyone else.
Accidental Misnaming: In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", it's revealed that his name is actually Garry:
Jerry: On my first day here, the old director, he called me "Jerry" and I just didn't think I should correct him.
Malicious Misnaming: At the start of the sixth season, April effectively changes his name to "Larry Gengurch". He's been known exclusively as "Larry" ever since. Even NBC's website now recognizes him as Larry Gengurch!
Beneath the Mask: Recent episodes have shown that it's actually quite difficult to keep his upbeat attitude at the office in light of all the abuse he takes, which may lead to some of his clumsiness.
Oblivious Adoption: Had no idea he was adopted until a coworker who looked up his background mentioned that his adoptive mother had been arrested for marijuana possession... Jerry just said he didn't know he was adopted.
Older than They Look / Younger than They Look: Oddly combined in that Jerry is supposed to be 64 as of the fourth season (the episode "Sweet Sixteen" references his Leap Day birthday), and of course has a lot of Informed Flaw in terms of his appearance, but Jim O'Heir is only 50- in fact, he's eight years younger than Christie Brinkley, who was cast as Jerry's wife.
Ironically enough, her actress' Twitter account specifically says "Don't call me sassy."
Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider)
"I hit rock bottom that night. I mean I literally fell to the bottom of a pit and hit a rock. I remember laying there thinking, 'There's probably a good reason why I'm down here.' And then I remember thinking, 'I need morphine.' "
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Non-villainous example. Some years prior to the first season, Mark and Leslie slept together once. This was a very important event in Leslie's life and she imagines their working relationship has been filled with UST since. Mark sleeps with so many women that he barely even remembers it.
Character Development: In the second season, he began a steady relationship with Ann and remained faithful to her.
The Generic Guy: For two seasons, he stood in the middle of a cast of more interesting characters and acted sane. Which is what a Straight Man is obviously supposed to do, but many would argue that he just ended up being boring and unmemorable.
Put on a Bus: At the end of season two, Ann breaks up with him and he leaves the government to work for a construction company. Has elements of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome in that he's never mentioned again after he leaves, even when it would make sense for him to be mentioned. Seriously, Ann was with Mark longer than any other man she's dated on the show, but she didn't have a "Mark" box in "Halloween Surprise"? Also, Leslie and Ben struggle to find an architect for the Lot 48 park in "Pawnee Commons", apparently forgetting that Mark had already drawn up plans for the park and given them to Leslie in his last episode.
Related/Married to Main Characters
Marlene Griggs-Knope (Pamela Reed)
Leslie's mother and "a big mucky-muck in the county school system". Has shades of Meddling Parent and Well Done Daughter Girl. Leslie's father has been dead since she was ten years old, which was first implied in a throwaway line explaining that "he lives in Florida, in a cemetery" and later made explicit in the fifth season.
Ron's girlfriend in season five. She is a middle school vice principal with two kids, Ivy (Rylan Lee) and Zoey (Sadie Salazar). According to Leslie and Ron himself, she is perfect for Ron. They are married at the start of season six.
Wendy Haverford (Jama Williamson)
Tom's wife at the start of the series. She is Canadian and married him to stay in the country, resulting in the Irony of an interracial Citizenship Marriage where it's the white person who is trying to avoid being deported. They split up during the second season, in an episode appropriately titled, "Tom's Divorce". Ron dated her for awhile before she moved back to Canada near the start of the third season.
Ethel Beavers (Helen Slayton-Hughes)
A Cool Old Lady who works in the dreaded fourth floor of City Hall and is also court stenographer.
Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser)
City councilman, orthodontist and Jerkass extraordinaire who generally opposes everything Leslie does on principle. As of Season 6, while retaining his Jerkassness, is also characterized as a lonely and pathetic man who desperately needs a friend.
Bill Dexhart (Kevin Symons)
City councilman. An incredibly Sleazy Politician who is usually involved in some kind of sex scandal.
Leslie's boyfriend in season two. A bumbling cop. Their relationship is cut short due to Dave joining the Army Reserve and moving to San Diego, but he comes back in season four's "Dave Returns" and awkwardly interacts with Ben.
The vapid host of Pawnee Today, a talk show frequented by the main characters. She likes Tom due to his flattery, but seemingly has a vendetta against Leslie. She's oddly arrogant for a local media star.
Shauna Malwae-Tweep (Alison Becker)
Intrepid Reporter for the local paper. Usually, the Parks Department gives her access in the hope that she'll report something positively for them, but hijinks ensue and her story ends up with a negative, sensationalistic slant. In season five, Chris has a short-lived and ambiguously romantic relationship with her.
Host of a public radio show which plays terrible music. Leslie has been a guest on the show a couple times.
Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz)
Tom's partner-in-crime who is (even more) slimy and obnoxious. He's hilarious just from his hairstyle. Pretty much outright hated by Ron and Donna.
Mona Lisa Saperstein (Jenny Slate)
Jean-Ralphio's "twin sister from the same mister" who he describes as (singing) "the worst person in the wooooorld" and also a "total klepto, nympho, and pyro". Tom hires her at his clothing rental business and ends up starting a relationship with her after attempting to discipline her results in a sexual encounter.
Dr. Saperstein (Henry Winkler)
Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa's father. He finds his layabout offspring to be a huge disappointment.
Nick Newport, Sr. (Christopher Murray)
Former CEO of Sweetums, a candy corporation which owns half the town. Dies at the end of season four.
Current CEO of Sweetums in season two. Father of Denver (Ryan Hartwig) and Dakota (Harley Graham). As of season four, he seems to have been Retconned out of existence.
Other Pawnee Residents
Marcia Langman (Darlene Hunt)
A humorless right-wing Christian activist offended by everything. Often uses Insane Troll Logic. The episode "Sex Education" introduces her husband Marshall Langman (Todd Sherry), who shares her views in spite of being obviously Camp Gay. (They're probably based on Michelle and Marcus Bachmann.)
A miniature horse (more specifically, a Shetland pony) that did... something that has endeared him to the residents of Pawnee. Later dies and is given a city-funded hero's funeral. Ron takes his death particularly hard:
Ron: When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half-mast, I thought 'alright — another bureaucrat ate it.' But then, I found out it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damned respect.
Brandi Maxxxx (Mara Marini)
Local Pawnee Porn star who also ran for City Council against Leslie Knope and Bobby Newport. Admires Leslie and played her in "Too Big To Nail", an adult movie about Leslie saving the Pawnee Videodome.